Newspaper logo  
 
 
Local Stories, Events

Ref. : Civic Events

Ref. : Arts & Education Events

Ref. : Public Service Notices

Books, Films, Arts & Education

12.11 This For-Profit College Is Leaving Students With Lots of Debt and No Degrees [It's a Trump University World]

Letters

Ref. : Letters to the editor

Health Care & Environment

12.15 World leaders are trying to make a climate deal in Poland — despite Trump

12.15 John Kerry: Forget Trump. We All Must Act on Climate Change. [Might he be a candidate for President in 2020?]

12.15 Black lung disease is still killing miners. The coal industry doesn't want to hear it [Trump loves Coal]

12.14 You, Too, Are In Denial of Climate Change

12.14 After 30 Years Studying Climate, Scientist Declares: "I've Never Been as Worried as I Am Today"

12.13 'Whoever You Are, Wherever You Are, We Need You': 15-Year-Old Greta Thunberg Calls for Global Climate Strike

12.12 In Early Holiday 'Gift to Polluters,' Trump Guts Protections for 60 Percent of Nation's Streams, Wetlands, and Waterways

12.12 An Indication of What's Coming': Melting at North and South Poles Worse Than Previously Thought [4:47 video]

12.11 The will of the people is to halt climate change, what about politicians? [Excellent!]

12.11 'We live in a lobstocracy': Maine town is feeling the effects of climate change [Do you care?]

12.11 Protesters disrupt pro-fossil fuel event at COP24 – video [Do you care?]

12.11 'It's a sad reality': a troubling trend sees a 97% decline in monarch butterflies [Do you care?]

News Media Matters

Daily: FAIR Blog
The Daily Howler

US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

12.15 What the Hell Is Wrong With Paul Ryan? [”The Saudi check is in the mail.”]

12.15 Scott Walker signs bills to limit powers of incoming Wisconsin Democrats [Immoral people cheat, etc.]

12.15 Paying Congress’s interns a living wage is a good idea. Paying professional staff one is even better.

12.15 Trump science adviser casts doubt on links between pollution and health problems [Consider the ignorant/bribed source.]

12.15 How Republicans are turning US states into labs of anti-democracy

12.14 We read Democrats’ 8 plans for universal health care. Here’s how they work.

12.14 The Senate just passed a resolution to end US support for the Saudi war in Yemen

12.13 Bernie’s Plan for Racial Justice

12.13 'We See You Stephen Miller': White House Reportedly Considering 'Despicable' and 'Racist' Plan to Deport Vietnam War Refugees

12.13 Sanders and Warren Are Challenging the Post–Cold War Foreign-Policy Establishment

12.13 'Stand Up, Fight Back!' Protestors Storm Capitol as Michigan GOP Moves Ahead With Lame-Duck Coup

12.13 'What a Despicable Sham': MSNBC's Chris Hayes Denounces Five House Democrats as 'Cowards' for Helping GOP to Block Yemen Vote

Justice Matters

12.14 The Trump inauguration is now being criminally investigated

High Crimes?
Economics, Crony Capitalism

12.15 Top House Democrats join Elizabeth Warren’s push to fundamentally change American capitalism

12.14 A World That Is the Property of the 1%: Wall Street, Banks, and Angry Citizens

12.10 Tackle climate or face financial crash, say world's biggest investors

12.10 Group led by Thomas Piketty presents plan for ‘a fairer Europe’

12.08 America’s Rigged Tax Collection System

International & Futurism

12.15 Denmark gives new fathers paid leave. Why do so few take it? [Audio clip]

12.14 Coal in, Activists Kept Out at Katowice Climate Talks

12.13 Yemen rivals agree Hodeida ceasefire, UN chief says

12.13 The Honduran Nightmare

12.12 Why women have better sex under socialism, according to an anthropologist

12.10 Smaller Democracies Grapple with the Threat of Russian Interference

12.10 US and Russia ally with Saudi Arabia to water down climate pledge [The Oil Mafias lobby for more insanity]

We are a non-profit Internet-only newspaper publication founded in 1973. Your donation is essential to our survival.

You can also mail a check to:
Baltimore News Network, Inc.
P.O. Box 42581
Baltimore, MD 21284-2581
Google
This site Web
  The Embarrassing Republican Friends of Planetary Defense
Newspaper logo

COMMENTARY:

The Embarrassing Republican Friends of Planetary Defense

by JOHN HICKMAN
The obvious problem with the two Republican friends of planetary defense is that they are far from paragons of rational scientism.
Is defending the Earth from catastrophic collisions with enormous chunk of cosmic debris an American responsibility? That’s the question The New York Times reporter Warren E. Leary has William Ailor asking at the March 5-8, 2007 Planetary Defense Conference at Georgetown University: “Should one nation, the United States,” queries conference chair Ailor, “be responsible for the entire planet?” The short answer to his question is “yes.” The United States is responsible for protecting the entire planet by detecting and deflecting any killer asteroids or comets heading toward Earth.

In principle, of course, other countries with serious space programs—Russia, China, Japan and the 17 member states that cooperate through the European Space Agency—should all be willing to shoulder a proportionate share of the costs of defending the planet from the statistically non-trivial threat of enormous, fast-moving space debris. Moreover the other 180-plus countries that lack serious space programs also should chip in their share of the costs of protecting our common and only home. However, such a collective assumption of responsibility is precisely what scholars of international politics would not predict. Instead they would predict rational rather than principled action. What that means is that while several of the space powers might be willing to shoulder minor parts of the burden, they would join every other country on the planet in allowing the United States to assume most of the responsibility.

The problem with achieving any proportionate cost sharing in this is that defense against catastrophic space debris strikes is an exceedingly pure public good. That’s because the devastation caused by a kilometer-long asteroid smacking the Earth would be planet-wide, and as a consequence detecting and deflecting it would benefit everyone else on the planet just as much as it would Americans. What that means is that there is no way to exclude any country from benefiting from American efforts to provide this public good, even if only for the United States. The result is an open invitation to ‘free ride.”

That the rational pursuit of individual self-interest or national interest undermines cooperation to provide public goods is one of the more frequent observations made by social scientists. That helps to explain why the United States assumed a disproportionately high share of the total military spending among NATO member states during the Cold War and why the British Navy undertook the heavy lifting to suppress the Atlantic slave trade in the 19th century. So although it inevitably results in the sort of complaint expressed in William Ailor’s question, the weak often exploit the strong in international efforts to provide public goods.

Scientific and statistical illiteracy that prevents most Americans from understanding the nature of the threat from cosmic debris.
Politics of a different sort was obviously on the minds of many of the presenters at the 2007 Planetary Defense Conference. Comments made during the panel discussion on the last day of the conference reveal frustration about persuading ordinary Americans that the threat is serious and persuading American politicians that more money should be spent on planetary defense. Serious public discussions of doomsday asteroids inevitably encounter giggles that are the result of Hollywood science fiction. Who doesn’t want to forget the execrable 1998 film Armageddon? More important than popular culture is the sort of scientific and statistical illiteracy that prevents most Americans from understanding the nature of the threat. According to Michigan State University political scientist Jon Miller, fewer than 30 percent of American adults can read and understand the science section of The New York Times.

The small number of space science specialists involved in planetary defense ought to be especially alarmed by their friends among elected officials.
The small number of space science specialists involved in planetary defense ought to be especially alarmed by their friends among elected officials. Only two were mentioned by the panelists at the 2007 Planetary Defense Conference: California Republican Representative Dana Rohrabacher and Kansas Republican Senator Sam Brownback. Rohrabacher has supported Federal funding for planetary defense, probably because it is a backdoor to develop space war technology. Brownback has merely suggested holding hearings on planetary defense. The obvious problem with both of these Republican friends of planetary defense is that they are far from paragons of rational scientism. Rohrabacher has expressed skepticism about the anthropocentric causes of current climate change and even suggested that dinosaur flatulence might have played a role in previous warming episodes. Brownback is on record supporting theistic challenges to Darwinian evolution.

The planetary defense crowd desperately needs some new, less embarrassing friends on Capitol Hill.


John Hickman is associate professor of comparative politics at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. His published work on electoral politics, media, and international affairs has appeared in Asian Perspective, American Politics Research, Comparative State Politics, Contemporary South Asia, Contemporary Strategy, Current Politics and Economics of Asia, East European Quarterly, Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans, Jouvert, Legislative Studies Quarterly, Political Science, Review of Religious Research, Women & Politics, and Yamanashigakuin Law Review. He may be reached at jhickman@berry.edu.

REFERENCES:


Copyright © 2007 The Baltimore Chronicle. All rights reserved.

Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.

This story was published on March 15, 2007.
 

Public Service Ads: